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Machu Picchu: A Photography Guide to the Land in the Clouds

brown and white animal on high ground under white sky

We’re going for a slightly different angle on this travel photography blog. While Peru is a gorgeous vacation destination in its own right, one of the most popular reasons for visiting is the world-famous Machu Picchu. 

This is a UNESCO world heritage site that’s located 7,000 feet above sea level, built in the 15th century by the Incas. Today, it’s a new wonder of the world, complete with stunning views and incredible wildlife that can easily take your breath away. 

While it’s the perfect place to visit to snap some shots for your Facebook photo book, however, we don’t want to spend this blog talking about what you should snap. If you’ve booked your flights, you probably have a good idea already. Instead, we wanted to take some time to talk about how you can snap your pictures, and what you need to do to prepare yourself. So without further ado, let’s get into it. 

Follow the Rules

The reason we’re doing this is because Machu Picchu is unique, not only geographically, but from a tourism perspective. First off, this isn’t just a location you can rock up to. 

In order to gain entry into Machu Picchu, you need to book tickets which cover the various attractions – including the trail tours, Huchuy Picchu, the Machu Picchu citadel, Huaynapicchu, and the mountain itself. To follow regulations, you must be accompanied by a tour guide and reentry into the site is prohibited. Other rules can be found on the Inca Trail website.

Be Patient

According to recent data, around 1.5 million people visit Machu Picchu every year, and this amounts to around 2,500 visitors a day. With this in mind, when it comes to photography, you need to be patient. 

One of the most stunning places in the area is the Machu Picchu citadel, but in a big group, it can be hard to immediately get the picture you want. Make sure you remain patient, and remember that the crowd will disperse and you will get your turn. 

Don’t Listen to the ‘Experts’

We don’t know how many blog posts we’ve seen that recommend photographers to arrive at Machu Picchu for the sunrise. Trust us when we tell you: the Machu Picchu sunrise is overrated. Because it’s 7,000 feet up, the site is typically shrouded in mist in the early morning, which makes the neighbouring mountains almost indistinguishable. Unless you want to upload hundreds of pictures of clouds to our photo book maker, we’d recommend visiting a little later. 

If you want to go in the morning, any time between 4 am and 6 am would be ideal, as you will miss the heavy crowds – that usually arrive at the site between 6 am and 9 am – while still making the most of the glorious scenery. If you can acquire an afternoon permit, then any time after 3 pm is another great option, as most people will have left the site and the natural light will be perfect for your pictures.

Pack the Essentials

The other thing to note is that Machu Picchu is rainy. Very rainy. You’re pretty much in the clouds, after all! But in our opinion, you should seek out visiting between December to April during the rainy season. If you do this, not only will you have another chance of beating the crowds, but more importantly, you have a better opportunity of taking some beautiful atmospheric pics. 

So long as the mist isn’t too strong, overcast, rainy pictures of Machu Picchu are often the most captivating, as you can really capture the beauty and mysticism of the location. Of course, this does mean packing waterproof essentials and learning a few tips on taking photographs in the rain. But if you do so, we promise that it’s worth it.

Yes, You Can Take Selfies With Lamas

There are plenty of amazing animals at Machu Picchu, including giant hummingbirds, vultures, torrent ducks, and the elusive spectacled bears. But the most famous of all Machu Picchu animals have to be the llamas and alpacas that wander various famous sites. And yes, you can take selfies with them. 

In nearly every Facebook or Instagram revolving around Machu Picchu, we don’t think we’ve come across one without a llama or two in the frame. But don’t worry about conforming to the crowd, though. In fact, given that you’ll likely be taking plenty of landscape shots, we would urge you to take llama selfies, if only to give your portfolio some much-needed subjects. Just be warned, these subjects can spit!


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